Libraries, ebooks, and the freedom to read




Libraries have long championed its patrons’ right to privacy. The American Library Association first adopted a document known as the Library Bill of Rights in 1939. Basically, it states that whatever anyone chooses to read is no one else’s business, and there is no good reason for the government or any other entity to interfere. Much more recently, librarians eagerly pursued means of lending ebooks to their patrons, only to find unexpected incompatibilities between doing so and freedom to read. Libraries and privacy Every once in a while, some spectacular criminal act will have people suggesting that maybe the police … Continue reading






New technology in libraries




I suppose all professional organizations have regular large, national or international meetings where members gather to learn about the latest developments. Normally they feature an exhibit hall where various vendors display their wares. In recent decades these exhibits always include plenty of fancy new computer technology. Libraries have always been on the forefront of information technology. We think of information technology as requiring the use of computers to store and manipulate data about data, or metadata. In fact, a library catalog entry is and has always been metadata, long before computers existed. When experts at the Library of Congress devised … Continue reading






Teenagers, libraries, digital media, and learning




To many grownups, teenagers always seem to be goofing off with various electronic toys: cell phones, music players, game consoles, portable computers, and the like. Teenagers certainly consume a lot of digital media. Libraries are discovering that this same passion for digital technology can help develop creativity and critical thinking skills. In November 2011, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, along with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, made grants of $100,000 to twelve museums and libraries across the country to develop digital learning laboratories for teenagers. They will announce another round of grants in November 2012. … Continue reading






Bookmobile: when the library comes to you




By the time even smaller cities had public libraries, patrons still had to live in town to use them. The idea of taking library materials to smaller towns and rural areas took form only in the twentieth century. Depending on which website is correct, the first bookmobile service in the US started either in Chester County, South Carolina or Washington County, Maryland. Washington County’s effort (from 1905) is better documented, but Chester County’s claims to have started in 1904. The idea caught on and spread first to neighboring counties and eventually throughout most of the country. Today, some kind of … Continue reading






Libraries nourish creativity




“One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out” — Jeff Bezos So how to you go about inventing your way out of a tight box? It requires curiosity and creativity. Libraries themselves have been in a tight box lately. For centuries, they have functioned mostly as repositories of information. Rightly or wrongly, society seems to be coming to the conclusion that it does not need repositories any more. For the past several decades, libraries have been reinventing themselves into idea factories. Why did society start building large collections of books … Continue reading